December 13th, 2009
A correction: I realized last night that I do not, in fact, read my family’s Christmas Book every year. Or at least, in the baby-related hubbub of 2008, I didn’t sit down to read the whole thing cover to cover last year.
I was about two pages in when it hit me that I hadn’t read The Book since my grandmother died in July of 2008. In a lot of ways, The Book is a love letter from my mother and aunts to grandma, thanking her for their childhood, which laid the foundations for their enduring friendships and set in motion all our holiday traditions.
And so, reading The Book this year brought me even more joy (and more tears) than usual.
It was wonderful/sad to see grandma again through their eyes as they remembered her as she was when they were growing up. In the later years of her life, my grandma withdrew into herself — a symptom of slowly encroaching Alzheimer’s that we did not recognize for many years.
That disease lost out to cancer in the race to take her from us, and grandma was still mostly herself until her death. But she was a more reserved version of herself — content to sit and read and watch the holiday festivities unfold around her, rather than take part actively.
But in The Book, grandma is lively and engaged. She is bustling around the kitchen, hosting parties and teaching her girls to bake. She is reading stories aloud and hosting tea parties. She is fully herself. And that’s how I want to remember her.